A day after Lilly Endowment news, Associated Press posts job opening ads for seven religion journalists

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We shared the big news Wednesday about the 18-month, $4.9 million Lilly Endowment Inc. grant that will fund 13 religion journalists at The Associated Press, Religion News Service and The Conversation.

We had a few questions, too, about the specifics of the Global Religion Journalism Initiative, which RNS CEO and Publisher Tom Gallagher calls a “transformative and historic grant by Lilly.”

A few of the answers — such as the specific descriptions of the positions and where they will be based — began emerging today.

AP posted job opening ads on its careers website for seven Global Religion positions, including:

New York-based Global Editor: “an experienced journalist and news leader to lead its new Global Religion team and direct the cooperative’s coverage of religion around the world in all media formats, with a focus on explanatory and accountability reporting.”

New York- or Washington-based news editor: “this senior producer will help lead a team of journalists who cover religion around the world and will have direct responsibility for crafting video news report on religion that is rich in exclusive spot news, compelling live video and distinct, deeply reported enterprise.”

New York- or Washington-based newsperson: “a talented multiformat journalist to join its new Global Religion team and report on the intersection of politics and religion as a newsperson.”

New York-based newsperson: “a talented multiformat journalist to join its new Global Religion team and report on youth and faith as a newsperson.”

New York-based newsperson: “a talented text and digital presentation editor to join its new Global Religion team as a newsperson. … (T)his editor will direct and edit breaking news coverage, working closely with news managers and journalists worldwide to ensure AP content about religion is accurate, fast, distinctive and packaged creatively for audiences around the world.”

Cairo-based newsperson: “a talented multiformat journalist to join its new Global Religion team and report on Islamic faith and culture as a newsperson.”

Washington-based videojournalist: “a videojournalist with a history of successful television and online video storytelling to join its new Global Religion team as a videojournalist in Washington.”

As you may recall, Wednesday’s news release noted:

Through the initiative, AP will add eight religion journalists; RNS will add three religion journalists; and The Conversation will add two religion editors. Additional business staff will also be hired across the organizations.

I will confess that when I read the news release, I interpreted religion journalists as religion reporters. In other words, I was excited by the prospect of eight new religion writers at AP and three new religion writers at RNS. In a field that has seen so many papers cut Godbeat writing positions in recent years (think Dallas Morning News, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Louisville Courier-Journal and others that don’t come immediately to mind), there is no shortage of talent to fill such roles.

As it turns out, I forgot about those pesky, often helpful people in the newsroom called editors. So it is that the AP openings include what sound like three editor/supervisor gigs, one videojournalist and three text reporters — two in the U.S. and one in Egypt.

I’m unclear on the reported eighth opening. Perhaps another position still will be posted.

Even though my bias would be toward devoting more of the grant money to actual reporters, I do see the benefit of having an expert in the newsroom help a major organization like AP make sure it’s covering religion accurately. One only has to consider the recent case of the New York Times to understand why.

AP currently has one full-time national religion reporter, the amazing Rachel Zoll, although she is on medical leave with brain cancer and hasn’t worked in more than a year. At one time, AP had two full-time domestic religion reporters, including Zoll and GetReligion’s own Richard Ostling. But newsroom cutbacks in recent years resulted in the elimination of one of those positions. (I believed that occurred when Eric Gorski, Ostling’s successor, left the AP.)

Also, Brian Murphy served as AP’s international religion writer at one time. As far as I know, no one holds that post with AP anymore. (If I’m wrong, please correct me!)

Hopefully, AP’s coverage plans for religion will include someone to cover the nitty-gritty of actual religious groups and doctrines — along with the emphasis on important areas such as youth, politics and Islam.

It’ll be interesting to see the job listings for the openings at RNS. They might help answer more of our original questions.

Stay tuned!

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